When the Buffalo Sabres clearly outclassed the Washington Capitals 5-1 on Tuesday, it seemingly provided evidence of two teams going in the wrong direction. The Caps disappointed again while that victory marked the fifth in a row for Buffalo.
That turned out to be true, only it seems that game was a turning point for the Capitals and perhaps the peak of the 2011-12 season for the Sabres.
Things are pretty bad for Buffalo now, something that isn’t lost on the team. Ville Leino told the Buffalo News’ John Vogl that much:
“Tuesday we have to win,” Leino said. “Otherwise, we don’t have a chance.”
With a two-point gap between Washington and Buffalo and three games left for each team, it would seem like Leino is being a bit dramatic. Yet with the Capitals’ tiebreaker advantage, it’s more like a three-point difference.
The Sabres are struggling with two consecutive regulation losses but the Caps seem aware that they haven’t exactly gotten their edge with dominant wins. They beat both the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens 3-2 via shootouts after coughing up leads.
Mike Knuble discussed the results with CSNWashington.com’s Chuck Gormley.
“We’d love to do it with a little more ease but the bottom line is we got the two points and Buffalo didn’t,” Knuble said. “We’ve said all along we’re shooting for at least eight out of 10 points (in their final five games) and we’re heading into the right direction.”
Indeed, if the Capitals get four more points, they’d make the playoffs even if the Sabres win out. Washington has five more regulation/OT wins than Buffalo, so the only way the Sabres are taking the eighth spot is by finishing with more points.
Then again, maybe Buffalo can take advantage of another falling team in the Florida Panthers, so ultimately, it’s all about carving out as many points as possible. As the stretch run shows, fortunes can change pretty quickly.